It’s remarkable how quick college basketball players go through the system, arriving as high-profiled freshmen, improving as sophomores and finding their respective roles–large or small–as junior and seniors. Vander Blue’s time as a lanky first-year reserve seemed like just days ago while watching him drop 30 points on South Florida, hit clutch shot after clutch shot and help Marquette to the Elite Eight as a dominant junior. Blue left Marquette after three seasons, but even Junior Cadougan’s four years seemed to fly by. So it’s no surprise that Trent Lockett’s 35 games in a Marquette uniform before using up his eligibility made him essentially a blip on the radar of the Golden Eagles’ storied history.
So what do we make of Lockett’s one season in Milwaukee? Still in the offseason, we haven’t quite moved on from the team’s historic 2012-13 campaign. There’s still time before all newcomers arrive on campus–Jameel McKay was the first to show up–to dissect the season that was, and the one player who justifiably seems to have disappeared without much notice is Lockett, who spent just 11 calendar months in the Marquette program.
He was, in essence, a one-year rental for Buzz Williams’ inexperienced team. Because of that, no one had the pleasure of watching him grow, and thus, didn’t form any personal attachments. His slow start didn’t help matters but in all, Lockett’s one year at Marquette seems to have passed by without much buzz. And that doesn’t do him justice.
Like Blue in his sophomore season, the lack of sexy offensive numbers overshadowed just how good Lockett was on defense. The 6-foot-5 guard’s best attribute was his rebounding. He led the Golden Eagles with 5.1 rebounds per game, an impressive number considering he played just 26.6 minutes per game. Those minutes were similar to fellow top-four rebounders Chris Otule (17.7 minutes), Davante Gardner (21.5) and Jamil Wilson (25.2). Marquette ran less in transition last year, and part of it was Lockett’s aggressiveness on the defensive glass.
His prowess, however, went further than just saying he hit the glass hard. He was Marquette’s second-most efficient defender, based on points per possession, per Synergy.com. And per Basketball-Reference.com, his 1.3 defensive win shares (DWS) were tied for best on the team.
It’s not entirely fair to compare bigs and perimeter players defensively, but Lockett’s numbers were stellar all season. He became the perfect blend of being able to defend guards and still crash the glass well. Lockett played bigger than his position and while he didn’t play much in the post, he was strong when opponents drove to the basket.
Not only did Lockett rank near the top of the 2012-13 team defensively, he actually ranked as Marquette’s best perimeter defender since Buzz Williams became head coach (based on PPP-against). A quick look at the graph below shows Lockett’s points-per-possession-against was the best of any guards under Williams, and only Wesley Matthews’ 2.3 defensive win shares were better than the Golden Valley, Minn., native’s 1.3 mark. (In the chart, we took the best perimeter defender from each season, not the top-five from any season.)
The 2012-13 Marquette team and the 2008-09 team’s defensive marks were almost identical (93.9 adjusted efficiency in ’09; 93.2 in ’13), so there’s a solid argument for Matthews being better as a senior, and the non-numerical argument is even stronger. Still, coming in second place to a player such as Matthews is nothing to be ashamed of. **SIDE NOTE** Given these numbers, Maurice Acker’s senior season continues to look more and more impressive. It was better than most everyone realized.
Williams was insistent all season long that Lockett was a winning player. Though on the surface and, more or less, in the box score, this seemed like a stretch, digging deeper into the advanced statistics–something Williams does more frequently than anyone–shows he had a point. The eye test isn’t everything, especially to Williams.
Sometimes it’s too easy to label a player who struggles in the box score as a “role player” who “makes winning plays, even when it doesn’t show in the numbers.” But given these more advanced numbers, that’s exactly the kind of player Lockett was. His offensive rebounding numbers were solid, too, and his free-throw rate was higher than everyone not named Davante Gardner. Where Lockett made his biggest mark, however, was on defense. Rebounds, steals and blocks are nice indicators of defensive performance, but there’s more to it than that.
Given Vander Blue’s defensive struggles–compared to his magnificent sophomore season–and Junior Cadougan’s below-average defense, Lockett’s ability to guard the perimeter was a major help.
Trent Lockett’s time at Marquette came and went quickly; a brand-new, nationally-ranked recruiting class, two transfers who returned to school after being granted their release and the star player’s decision to announce early for the NBA draft made Lockett’s send-off even quicker. The reality is the Arizona State transfer was a crucial piece to what the Golden Eagles did in 2012-13. How good was Lockett’s one year? At least defensively, very good.